Last post on Sep 24, 2013 at 6:16 AM
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Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana, Saturn Relay, Buick Terraza, Pontiac Montana SV6, Van
#2477 of 2927 GM vans are good for backs
Feb 22, 2006 (9:08 pm)
For those of you with back problems, here is some information that the media "experts" have ignored...
The seats in the Chevy Uplander (and it’s GM relatives) appear to be some of the few that are designed for correct spinal positioning. If you sit in a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, or Chrysler minivan (and many cars, for that matter), you will notice that your hips are substantially below your knees and that you have to lean forward to reach the steering wheel. This puts your spine in the “flexion” position, which can exacerbate disc herniation by imparting excessive pressure on the front region of the spinal discs in the lower back. Many people focus on the existence of a lumbar support, but excessive bottom seat tilt is a more critical issue. I have noticed that only the GM minivans have spinally correct seating, and seem to have maintained this throughout the three minivan generations. The bottom cushions have considerably less tilt than others, and the power seats can be adjusted so that they have minimal tilt.
Based on media reports, I thought that buying a Honda Odyssey would be a very “safe” purchase, and so I went to a Honda dealer thinking I would follow through on purchasing an Odyssey. However, apparently the media has totally missed numerous important technical issues. For example, in one article they called the Honda Odyssey seats “supportive.” When I tested a 2006 EX model, I discovered that the power seat had excessive bottom cushion tilt, and was very uncomfortable. The Honda dealer salesman sympathized, explaining that his wife had back problems and that no Honda seat would work for her either. The dealer went on to recommend that I look at the GM minivans. Having previously rented an Uplander, I agreed that the seats were considerably more comfortable, by comparison.
While I was at the Honda dealer, I also noticed other issues with the Odyssey. The Odyssey’s instrumentation was blocked by the steering wheel, whereas it was very easily visible in the Uplander. The Odyssey’s gear shift lever is located on the dash, and is generally obtrusive. The radio/air controls are out of reach, whereas the Uplander’s are very easy to reach. The Odyssey sat low to the ground, which is not preferred on camping trips or when riding over speed bumps. The Uplander has a higher stance, and provides more utility characteristics. The Odyssey’s engine was noisier than I expected, and had noticeable valve clatter, whereas the Uplander’s 3.5L engine seems quieter and more silky at low RPM’s. Up close, the Odyssey seemed excessively “glitzy” for a minivan. I was not impressed, especially when the side door would not open so I could let my son out of the back seat! I, like others, have also noticed a steady stream of message board complaints about power train problems on the Odyssey, whereas I have rarely (if ever) seen issues with the GM vans.
Our 1994 Chevy Lumina van (which has served us well over the past decade) has a 3.8L engine with 170 peak horsepower, and has approximately the same weight/peak horsepower ratio as the Uplander with the 3.5L engine (205 peak horsepower). Our Lumina van has a completely different feel during acceleration, however. The 3.8L engine (a close cousin of the Buick 3800) has good low end torque, and feels responsive but quiet. Rarely do I have to rev it up to handle various driving situations. This was not the case with the Uplander that I rented with the 3.5L engine, however. I sometimes had to force it to shift down to accelerate through some situations I encountered. In my opinion, the 3.5L engine does not have the low end torque that I am used to. I think the 3900 engine is probably the way to go if you plan to keep a vehicle as long as I do. Unfortunately, most Uplanders on the car lots are typically equipped with the 3.5L engine, so you may have to custom order one from the factory (as I have done recently).
#2478 of 2927 Re: GM vans are good for backs [technical1]
Feb 23, 2006 (4:43 am)
The need to wind the 3.5L a bit to keep speed or accelerate in some situations is one of my few gripes too. I'm sure it's not really a flaw with the engine so much as part of its design (most recent engines, OHC or OHV are being tuned for more mid-high rpm powerbands). But I'm used to the lower end torquiness that required less throttle to get / keep moving. Be sure to let us know how your 3.9L compares to the 3.5 you tested, once you've had a chance to drive it a bit, and thanks for your feedback!
#2479 of 2927 Re: GM vans are good for backs [technical1]
Feb 23, 2006 (12:01 pm)
We had a 1995 Transport with the 3800 engine. The engine had good low-end torque. However, the 3.5L seems to be more responsive, snappier. Could that be because the new vans have an electronic throttle from the gas pedal versus the old cable?
Also don’t know if you have had the problem with the older 3.8L engines having a design flaw with the intake manifold developing a coolant leak? They used plastic intake manifold covers that would warp on the aluminum. You wouldn’t see the leak until the winter when the plastic would shrink a little. Had to have that fixed 3 times over 130,000 miles with the first 2 under warranty. Surprisingly they fixed it correctly when it was off warranty and I had to pay for it! Other than that the 3800 engine was great. Never used any oil. I started putting in Mobile 1 after the first year. I am using Mobile 1 on the new van too. The new van feels bigger, longer and the turning radius is a little bigger. However, the steering is tighter, the brakes are the best, and the acceleration off the line does seem snappier. The ride is quieter and all around more comfortable. The thing that you’re really going to love over your Lumina Van is that the blind spot on the driver’s side is gone! I agree with the seats. They do make a long ride feel short. Thanks for your write up!
#2480 of 2927 Re: Everyone has their own opinion [just4fun2]
Feb 23, 2006 (4:35 pm)
My conversion van had them and they folded up so you could enter and exit easily.
#2481 of 2927 Re: Armrests[blessingsx4]
Feb 24, 2006 (8:31 am)
If armrests were that important to you ... you should have purchased a vehicle that had armrests for both arms. Sounds like a custom conversion van is the only vehicle that comes with this feature.
You knew when you purchased this vehicle that it did not have dual armrests.
I challenge you to drive 23 hours in ANY vehicle and be perfectly comfortable.
Feb 24, 2006 (2:57 pm)
I got to see what the front end would look like after a accident on a Saturn Relay. I was out TD a '06 MPV yesterday and the Saturn Dealership right down the road is were it happened. A person TD'n a Relay had just pulled out of the dealership directly in front of a large Harley. Both the motorcycle rider and Relay driver had to be flown to the hospital as a precaution. It looked pretty nasty (for the motorcycle), but the Van looked like it held up pretty good.
#2483 of 2927 Re: End of the CSV"s??? [morewasabi]
Feb 24, 2006 (4:13 pm)
My door opening on its own was just that, IT OPENED ON ITS OWN, my daughter was sound aleep when the door opened, so I can tell you that she did NOT bump any button. And GM says that while in gear these doors are NOT to open under any circumstances whatsoever. PERIOD. Another customer at my dealer is currently having her van bought back by GM for the SAME thing....we are a small town, what are the odds that two vans have the same problem? THAT IS NOT DRIVER ERROR, its poor quality vehicles. I agree with blessingsx4, we bought these vans because we loved them and they were what we wanted until they became unsafe for us to drive. If mine never had a problem at all I would still be driving it BUT I would NOT degrade those who did have problems with theirs.
#2484 of 2927 Re: End of the CSV"s??? [haditwithmyvan]
Feb 24, 2006 (10:24 pm)
did you get a new van yet?
#2485 of 2927 phantom opening doors
Feb 24, 2006 (11:12 pm)
When I first read that this problem was happening to some I thought that perhaps the children were accidentally hitting the button either while awake (perhaps out of curiosity) or while sleeping (perhaps they were dreaming and their leg jumped and hit the button). Then upon further thought I realized this didn't make sense as I know that on my '05 Saturn Relay 3 that I have to do 3 different things for the sliding doors to open. First I must come to a complete stop. Second I must put the vehicle in park. Third I must manually unlock the doors (I deactivated the auto unlock through the personalization options). Only then will the doors open (at least using the buttons above the rearview mirror). I thank God I have not had this problem nor many of the ones listed here. I did get a recall notice on the harmonic balancer, took it to my Saturn dealer and in approx. 30 minutes I was back on the road. On a trip to NJ we used the DVD player and at no time was there any interference with the DVD player (in fact one of the people riding in the back remarked that they couldn't believe how far we had gone in the time they were watching the movie, they said the time flew by). No wind or whining noises. No clunks, bumps, taps, pings, clicks or any other unusual noises. Headlights are extremely bright. Radio works like a charm. I've even been using the OnStar vehicle diagnostics reports (if you have OnStar you can sign up for this free service and once a month OnStar runs a complete diagnostic on engine, transmission, ABS, Airbags, the OnStar system, the mileage, if an oil change is needed as well as percentage of oil life left as well as any other issues which it then sends you an email report with the findings, a really nice feature to have). I only transport adults (mainly older ones at that, all 59+ yrs. old and one is an 84 yr. old female all of which have no difficulty at all getting in or out of the van) and we have seated 3 adults in the third row seat by simply sliding the second row forward and then tilting it against the front seat. Thankfully no erratic pulling or anything. Brakes are smooth, solid and quite effective. Knock wood we have been all good so far. The engine has never been anything less than impressive including when we have 7 full sized adults in the vehicle. It takes off with authority and seems to never "run out of steam". I have read the posts here about front leg room and I am completely puzzled, I am a 6'3" tall male that weighs in excess of 300 lbs. and I have plenty of leg room in both front seats as well as plenty of room in general. I posted back several months ago about an experience this past summer when we went shopping at Kmart and we bought a new patio set which came in an enormous box as well as a separate box for the table top. We also had quite a number of bags and frankly when I saw the employee bringing out the box and I looked into the rear of the van (I had folded down the third row seats and with the storage bin behind that it was a flat load floor) I was concerned that the boxes wouldn't fit. Well my eyes bugged right out of my head when not only did both boxes slide right in with no difficulty at all but the bags fit with room to spare, amazing! There were four full sized adults on that shopping trip and the second row seats were able to be all the way back on their track so everything fit, and everyone was comfortable, again amazing! Then on a different occasion we were given an artificial Christmas tree which had already been assembled and decorated so we didn't want to tear it down just to transport it home and this included the box the tree came in as well as several large bags. We had 4 full sized adults and one 12 yr. old child and the tree went right in, the box went right in, the bags went right in and all of us had room to spare not to mention that the door closed with room to spare (this was a 6' Christmas tree!). If the need were ever there for more items a simple removal of the second row and third row seats and the storage bin and viola you have enough room to haul all you could ever want or need. On yet a third occasion we helped a gentleman move so there was 3 full sized adults plus all his belongings including his bed and it all fit in one trip with room to spare. We have had a lot of people remark about how sharp the van is (it's the Coastal Grey in all the ads and brochures). One female met us outside one day to say she loved how the van looked and when we pointed out all the features she just couldn't get over it and she left with the intention of going to get one for herself as she was especially impressed both with the roominess as well as the features the van has. Sorry for such a long post but I wanted to add my "2 cents" to the conversation. I am terribly sorry to hear all the problems so many of you are having with your vans and I hope everything works out for the best for you. I will continue to post every few months to update my experiences and impressions of my Relay.
#2486 of 2927 Owner’s Manual Error - Heads up on oil changes
Feb 25, 2006 (9:06 am)
In the 2005 Buick Terraza Owner’s Manual Page 5-95 there is an error. In the capacity grid it shows 4 qts for Oil change with filter. If you go online and down load the owner’s manual it is corrected to 4.5 qts. Found this out when the dealer was changing my oil. I bring my own Mobile 1 oil and only had 4 qts with me. Came up 1/2 qt shy. They advised me of my error and I researched and found the correction on line. Not sure if this error is in Saturn, Chevrolet, or Pontiac too?
Capacities and Specifications
The following approximate capacities are given in English and metric measurements. See Recommended Fluids and
Lubricants on page 6-11 for more information.
Air Conditioning Refrigerant Systems
Front A/C 1.7 lbs 0.8 kg
Front and Rear A/C 2.2 lbs 1.0 kg
Automatic Transaxle — Pan Removal and Replacement 7.4 quarts 7.0 L
AWD Automatic Transaxle — Pan Removal and
Replacement 8.7 quarts 8.3 L
Front A/C 11.3 quarts 10.7 L
Front and Rear A/C 12.8 quarts 12.2 L
Engine Oil with Filter 4.5 quarts 4.3 L
Regular 20.0 gallons 75.7 L
Extended 25.1 gallons 95.0 L
Wheel Nut Torque 100 ft lb 140Y
All capacities are approximate. When adding, be sure to fill to the approximate level, as recommended in this
manual. Recheck fluid level after filling.
Engine VIN Code Transaxle Spark Plug Gap
3.5L V6 8 Automatic 0.060 inches (1.52 mm)